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Monday, November 09, 2015

Cruel, Cruel Love From Fox

Fallen Angel (1945) Glows on Region Two Blu-Ray

Must have been tough being on the bum in 1945. Just ask Dana Andrews as bus mooch Eric Stanton. He's tossed off the conveyance for feigning sleep to cadge a ride into Frisco ("I've seen that sleepin' act before," says the driver before giving his unpaid passenger the heave --- did this sort of thing happen regular on buses back then?). Fallen Angel seems devised by ones who'd known the road and empty pockets. Toothbrush and paste are recurring motifs, Andrews as Stanton squeezing from a stranger's tube, then revealing slow-grow love for new wife Alice Faye by gifting her with a brush at their fleabag hotel stop. Fallen Angel was studious follow-up to Laura: same director (Otto Preminger), star (Andrews), and most importantly, composer David Raksin, who surely was under order to, if nothing else, deliver a hit tune as both focal point of narrative and object of shared promotion for juke boxes and the movie. "Slowly" would click for a number of recording artists from 1945 into '46, including Dick Haymes, who reached #12 with it on the Hit Parade, his rendition heard also on the film's soundtrack.

Some may have thought the tail that was "Slowly" was wagging dog that was Fallen Angel, an inapt word given plaudits the film earns among noir fandom. Talk in 1945 would have been near as much about the song as the show, especially among disc-spinners both on radio and in malt shops where "Slowly" could be heard for less coin than it took to get past a boxoffice for Fallen Angel. Just as the tune plays on repeat basis in the movie, so it hopefully would by teens earlier captivated by the Laura theme, set to vocals and still Hit Parading when Fallen Angel went into release. Fallen Angel is not just noir, but valued document of how pop pervaded public places, "Slowly" heard non-stop in the coffee shop where Dana Andrews-Linda Darnell fates are determined. Real money was in music by the mid-forties, a system oiled enough for fortunes to be made when tunes sailed to the top, as had "Laura," which would become a standard. "Slowly" rose too, but plays now as mere background to melodrama unfolding in Fallen Angel, the dog back in custody of its tail after seventy years.

"Slowly" They Turn: Fallen Angel's Coffee Shop Juke Box
Plays Nothing But That Tune  Throughout

There's an Otto Preminger Blu-Ray box recently out of Region Two, Fallen Angel one of three-for with Whirlpool and Where The Sidewalk Ends. They all look re-born to ink-and-white as seen on 40's nitrate. I've enjoyed these for years, but never so much as now, digital truly a handmaiden to noir, and every other genre, for that matter. Are we finally done arguing sanctity of "film" when these things are so clearly its superior? Enough of that, lest brickbats commence. I'll just say Fallen Angel is a dandy and the High-Def set a bargain, keeping in mind what 16mm prints of Fallen Angel used to command (upwards of $250, as I recall), and how spotty they'd be on arrival (splices? grayish contrast? --- pick your poison). I like how Fox noirs hook up. Fallen Angel has not just Laura links, but a would-be spook shill that's dry run for Nightmare Alley and another Stanton (Carlyle, as played by Tyrone Power) who tries a back-from-dead chisel that comes to grief.

Andrews/Preminger/Raksin were cards dealt in noirs to 40's finish, welcome signatures on dark walks taken by 20th. Less at home with the lights-low genre was Alice Faye, top-billed for Fallen Angel and hopeful that it would transition her out of musicals and into straight emoting. Later Faye interviewing saw Fallen Angel as sore point. She'd indicate quitting Fox for unspoke reason, though clear was this last for them laying at root of the split. There was bitter drive off the lot sans goodbyes, this after ten years a star there. Later-still reminisce found Faye more forthcoming --- she'd begun Fallen Angel in good faith, but saw her part carved in favor of primary poster bait Linda Darnell, whose downfall-to-men character was cinch to command more interest than Alice's used/abused spinster. Faye got most of a second half to herself, but had to know bulk of viewership spent that missing Darnell. Me too, I'll confess. Like with later Letter To Three Wives, LD is a liveliest wire, and we regret her getting offed, even as the device otherwise intensifies interest. A check of '45 promotion finds Darnell dominant, her cross-legs key art for one-and-three sheets now collectable. 20th would use it as well for their DVD cover. Besides Fallen Angel's Blu-Ray from England, there is a CD, Preminger At Fox, which has Raksin's score, plus music from Laura, Daisy Kenyon, Whirlpool, and Where The Sidewalk Ends.


Blogger aldi said...

That last poster art says it all. Dana Andrews definitely seems to be looking at Darnell's legs rather than Faye's face. And I can't say I blame him!

5:09 PM  
Blogger iarla said...

Darnell's best remembered for " A Letter to Three Wives" but that is because of Joe's script, not her acting.......but..... her earlier sluts (even meaner in "Hangover Square" (45, surely her finest onscreen hour) are more interesting.

1:26 PM  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

Just thought I'd mention that the Fox Film Noir Series DVD of "Fallen Angel" has one of the best DVD commentaries I've ever heard. It features the always entertaining Eddie Muller and Dana Andrews' daughter Susan. And it's a joy to hear these two discussing the film, especially since they focus, quite understandably, on various aspects, personal and professional of the great Mr. Andrews. I'd have Oscar nominated him multiple times (The Ox-Bow Incident,Laura, A Walk in the Sun, The Best Years of Our Lives, Daisy Kenyon and Where the Sidewalk Ends). But somehow the Academy always seemed to take his complex but understated brilliance for granted.

12:21 AM  

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